It is an unprecedented time in American life. We are living with a great deal of disruption and uncertainty. A lot of us, with good reason, are nervous, lonely and overwhelmed.

In these cases, the best way to help ourselves is to help each other,  just as so many Mainers and Americans are already doing.

But how do you help when movement is so limited?

One of the simplest and most direct ways to help in a crisis is to give blood. As of Thursday morning, the American Red Cross of Maine reported that 4,500 blood drives had been canceled nationwide because of concerns over COVID-19, resulting in 150,000 fewer blood donations worldwide.

The Red Cross expects that the cancellations will continue. They are asking for healthy volunteers to give blood, an already safe process now subject to additional precautions specific to the virus. To make an appointment, go to RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App. There is even a Blood Scheduling Skill on Amazon Alexa.

Also, don’t hoard food. Supply lines are up and working, allowing grocery stores to restock daily. There’s enough food for everyone as long as people don’t buy too much at once.

Good Shepherd Food Bank, which serves 25 million meals to Mainers each year, said with stores running out of everything, they’ve seen fewer donations. It’s not a problem right now, but it could become one in time.

Mainers can help by donating at gsfb.org. The organization also said they may need healthy volunteers as the crisis goes on.

The United Way organizations for the Kennebec Valley and Greater Portland have both created special response funds to support area nonprofit groups as they help residents harmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

And for more information on volunteer and donor opportunities, check out last weekend’s report from Portland Press Herald staff writer Megan Gray.

Finally, you can also help soothe the loneliness that is pervasive now even in the best of times, and which is being made worse by the necessary steps most everyone is taking to isolate.

Kelley Bouchard of the Press Herald reported Sunday on how volunteers and agencies are helping Maine senior stay connected and healthy. One volunteer group in Harpswell has created a buddy-call network and turned its dinner gatherings into a meals program.

Most everyone can help in the same way. Make sure to call family, friends and neighbors — hear their voices and let them hear yours. Check in on people you know may not have a lot of outside contact. Offer to run errands.

And stay present and active with the people in your own home — don’t let the internet, news or streaming services suck you in. When you do get out and about, be kind and patient with strangers.

We don’t know how much longer “social distancing” will rule the day, but it’s likely to be measured in weeks, perhaps months, not days. It’s up to each of us to do what we can to make it bearable, even fulfilling, for the people around us.

 


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